Posted tagged ‘HRO due diligence’

HRO Holiday Gifting

November 24, 2009

What do you get the company that is hard to buy for? How about a new niche acquisition? As we ready for the holiday season and the end of the year, I wonder if there will be any interesting, prettily wrapped presents. If you are shopping to buy or sell all or a portion of an HRO business, here are a few gift buying guide pointers.   

Look at the Bow on the Package

Attractive acquisition factors:

•  State-of-the-art technology infrastructure with low operating costs and great end-user experience

•  Integrated service centers in desirable locations, good regional coverage for languages, deep subject matter expertise and knowledge of local regulations

•  Reputation for service quality and relationships

•  Compatibility in values and culture

•  A well-rounded book of current clients

•  Strong revenue stream with a high percentage of multiyear contracts

•  No/low debt

•  Small enough to be affordable and benefit from the leverage of a larger partner

Shake the Package

While the above characteristics are the ideal, it’s much more likely a potential acquisition candidate will have a mix of elements, some more attractive, some not so much.

Extra due diligence is required if the main asset is a current slate of contracts. If the potential acquisition is friendly, take a look at the customer termination clauses to see if there are easy outs. Larger clients often have Change in Control terms that work both ways, including covering what happens if the provider is acquired. Check the penalties for Termination for Convenience. If the penalties decline over time, how near end of term are the largest clients? Are there signs some of the major clients are already on their way out the door?

Last April, Empyrean Benefits Solutions, Inc. made a bid to acquire ING’s Health and Welfare Unit. By June the deal was dead. According to my information, a key to the deal was keeping the majority of the clients intact as Empyrean already had its own new technology platform. When it became increasingly clear that the full book of clients would likely not be retained, the deal fell apart. As a result, Empyrean decided to stay focused on its own organic growth path. (Which, by the way, Empyrean has successfully done, almost doubling its client base by adding 14 new clients so far this year.)

There are providers looking for the right acquisition, and there are those who would like to sell. A match in the HRO space requires the same level of mutual due diligence required in a major provider and client long term contract. A match in the HRO community is also a matter of attractive elements and compatibility.

Happy holiday due diligence and gifting.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

Tired of Reading the HRO Tea Leaves? Then Let’s Go Back to School

August 6, 2009

Everywhere we turn the analysts, advisors and outsourcing media are trying to read the tea leaves of the 2Q and 1H09 results on anything and everything. What are the annual contract values of new and renewal HRO deals signed? Who is entering, exiting and partnering? NelsonHall’s July 2009 HRO Confidence Index showed markedly more confidence in the prospects for HR outsourcing for the coming year in Q2 2009 than in Q1 2009. Can we believe – and we all do want to believe! – the uptick in perception survey trends in provider pipelines and anticipated buyer readiness to expand hiring/training/add-your-service here areas? Less bad is good, right?

The “when” of the recovery is, of course, critical to all of us in the HR outsourcing community, as well to all in the larger global economy. The “what” and “how” are also important.

In its July 20 blog, IT services company Levi9 commented, “In striving to cut costs and derive more value from outsourcing contracts companies may forget all the important lessons they have learned rushing into ambiguous arrangements chasing short-term, and sometimes elusive benefits.” While Levi9 was talking IT, its statement is universal and reflective of the first generations of large scale HRO. How will we approach the opportunity for launching third generation HRO?

As it is almost return to school time, we should all be checking what lessons we have learned and what changes we have made. How will the HR outsourcing community be ready for expansion when it occurs? By using the three HRO R’s: Reviewing, Revising and Relaunching!


Every aspect of the HRO value proposition needs to have been vetted, strategically analyzed and selective investment (and divestment?) decisions made to put growth on a flexible, scalable, sustainable footing that is easier and less expense to buy, implement and operate while offering greater differentiated competitive advantage, and, let us not forget, margins.


I can offer one piece of advice that requires no tea leaves, but does take a lot of homework. Once you have developed your strategy, rigorously conduct your due diligence, run the numbers, map out all elements of your service delivery and technology infrastructure, and stringently assess capabilities, risks and trade-offs. In the SAP white paper, “Strategic Levers to Optimize Your HR Processes,” the recommended HR client assessments could be readily adapted and applied to other portfolios, including HR service providers.


We have recently seen RPO partnerships expand geographic and service footprints for each partner, and changes in direction by Fidelity and Hewitt, away from certain large scale multi-process HRO business. And Spherion’s RPO division, newly branded as SourceRight, is an example of taking something that is working well and leveraging it even more strongly as a single process option. All this indicates that back to school basic analyses are being played out.

How are you doing with the three HRO R’s?

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall